Flint, MI– Frankie McIntosh has been writing poetry since the sixth grade. 

Over the years, poems have served as a way for her to understand her feelings, express herself, and take control of her own story. 

Now, the 22-year-old University of Michigan-Flint student is offering a free online workshop series for 10 Genesee County high school students to learn about poetry, mindfulness, taking care of your mental health, and finding your voice. 

McIntosh calls it “Mifullness Poetry.” The term ‘mifullness’ came about after McIntosh, and a friend accidentally pronounced ‘mindfulness’ that way. McIntosh ran with their version of the word, and gave it a new definition: “someone who fully embraces the magic of telling their story as it unfolds.” 

The workshops in the series, which will go from July 6 to Aug. 10, are modeled after the life cycle of a butterfly. First, there will be an introduction to poetry and mindfulness. Next, is the “Larva” stage, for “Poet in Us.” The “Caterpillar” stage is “Figurative Expression,” and the “Cocoon,” stage is “Communication.” The final stage, “Butterfly,” is called “Modeling our Story,” and is about visually representing and sharing completed poems. 

“So I call it ‘The Butterfly Effect’, because, mainly, it’s the intention of knowing that we all are poets, it’s the awareness of how we communicate our own poetry, of just basic communication, and also it’s acceptance of who we are, and how we showcase that to the world,” McIntosh said. 

Participants will read selected works, write their own poetry, learn about literary devices, and connect all of that to emotional intelligence and emotional communication.

McIntosh said learning to use poetry as a form of expression can be a very powerful tool for teenagers. 

“What I have learned and done my research about is really how many adolescents don’t have that deeper connection with their emotions, or are not able to explain what they’re going through emotionally,” McIntosh said. “Poetry gives the opportunity, like psychologically, to be able to connect with their emotions and empathize with others, and connect with others.”

Her hope is that the writing circle will create a “safety zone,” for expression, and that through poetry, participants can find a way to communicate with one another. 

“It could be like a peer-to-peer understanding of like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I didn’t know that you have that story,’ or ‘Oh, my gosh, I didn’t know that you went through that,’” she said. 

For McIntosh, poetry in itself can feel like a friend. 

“I think for me, growing up in Detroit, I have been through a lot of adversity. But honestly, poetry as a teen really helped me foster my voice, and understand my story,” she said. “Especially during hard times in my life, poetry has really come to me as a best friend. I always say the pen and paper were calling for me, like a call on the phone to a friend.” 

Since her first poems, McIntosh has frequently been a “Poet for Hire,” around Flint, where she sets up shop with a typewriter and writes poems on the spot for anyone who sits down across from her. 

This workshop series has been a project on McIntosh’s mind for a long time. She submitted her project idea to UM’s optiMize Social Innovation Challenge, and was one of 36 projects chosen to be funded out of nearly 300 submissions. 

“This has been such an amazing, creative process that I have been through, and a personal transformation process,” McIntosh said of organizing this project. “So I have transformed into a butterfly myself through this.”

The series will go from July 6 to Aug. 10, with virtual meetings twice a week on Tuesdays from 3-4:30 p.m., and Thursdays from 2:30-3:30 p.m. If you’re interested, you can sign up here.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...